Archive for: May 2017

NEW STUDY SHEDS LIGHT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AT UT

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 Find the full story here: https://texasnonosvamos.squarespace.com/

 

After Zoë was raped by her coworker, she went home to her empty apartment and cried for hours.

She felt confused. She didn’t think of the incident as rape until weeks later. She still doesn’t like to say the word aloud.

“It just sounds, like, so horrible,” Zoë, now 22, said. “I can’t bring myself to say even though I know that’s what it is.”

In the weeks following the incident, Zoë, who at the time was enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, found herself calling UT’s crisis hotline.

I think I remember being like my room in my apartment and having a panic attack,”  Zoë said. “They were trying to talk to me, trying to calm me down and give me resources.”

With the hotline’s help, she scheduled an emergency meeting for the next day at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center.

 

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Third year neuroscience major Jackie Roth was friends with Haruka Weiser prior to Weiser’s disappearance and death in April of 2016. Weiser’s murder shocked the UT community and jump started discussions about campus safety. Jackie says that Weiser’s death was not a reflection of holes in the UT’s safety policies, but rather a rare event that is a result of wider systemic issues facing the community.

 

 

The counseling center is one of many small pieces that make up a great puzzle of prevention programs, counseling, advocacy services and reporting options at UT. In addition to asking why students often choose not to report incidents of sexual assault or rape, our reporting team set out to make sense of this puzzle and ask whether these programs are effective.

Sexual assault and rape are not rare incidents among college students. In March, UT released a survey showing that 15 percent of undergraduate women at the university say they have been raped. The survey of 280,000 students found that 18 percent of students said they experienced “unwanted touching,” and 12 percent said they experienced attempted rape.

The lead researcher of the survey and many of the people interviewed for this article have stated the statistics provided by the report are unfortunately unsurprising. They are reflective of national data, both on college campuses and of the general population.

“UT is a microcosm of what’s happening around country, the world,” said Katy Redd, the associate director for prevention and outreach at the CMHC. “Gender based violence is all too common.”

The survey also says very few victims — 6 percent — disclosed incidents to someone involved with the university. Of the 32 percent of victims who said they told someone about the incident prior to taking the survey, 4 percent reported to the CMHC. Just one percent reported to the University of Texas at Austin Police Department.

“I think there’s a whole host of reasons [for non-reporting],” Redd said.

Breall Baccus is a Title IX prevention coordinator and confidential advocate at UT. She said students may feel hesitant to come forward “because they don’t know what the next steps would be.”

“They might also not realize what happened to them was assault,” Baccus said.

 

 

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The university hired Baccus in January to fill a gap in the Title IX office. By law, the university must comply with Title IX, which “prohibits sex discrimination in education,” according to UT’s Title IX information page. Unlike other members of UT’s compliance team, Baccus is not required by law to open incidents for investigation. When students come to her to disclose an incident, Baccus can explain their options, which could include filing an official report depending on how the student chooses to go forward.

The university amped up security and sexual assault prevention efforts following the on-campus sexual assault and killing of freshman Haruka Weiser last spring. In addition to increasing police presence, the university’s Be Safe campaign has used social media and student art to promote safety messages such as walking in well lit areas and not walking alone.

“It’s just a softer way of addressing things that are going on in campus and the way to increase their safety,” said UTPD Sgt. Samantha Stanford.

Stanford’s hire, like Baccus’s, was in part to address issues of interpersonal violence on campus. As a detective, she has received specialized training to help victims of sexual assault or rape. UTPD also offers free self-defense courses for women upon request, and Stanford said the department is looking into holding separate self-defense classes for men.

UTPD’s jurisdiction ends beyond the campus borders, and Stanford said that incidents in a private residence or in West Campus might be transferred to the Austin Police Department. Stanford also said sometimes the legal definition of sexual harassment or sexual assault differs from what the university or community may use. Despite these limitations, Stanford said she is available to meet with students to answer questions or explain the legal process.

“We’re trying to… brainstorm on how we can make the process a little bit easier for victims of sexual assault to come forward and feel comfortable with reporting to us,” Stanford said.

“I think that every student should have a right to feel safe and get the education that they want to get,” Breall said, “and not have a traumatic experience get in the way of that.”

 

 

Ian’s Giving Garden

Video by Alessandra Rey and Sydney Rubin

 

Written by Michaella Marshall and Sydney Rubin

When Ian McKenna was eight years old, he began building gardens.

He was inspired by a story his sister Addison told him one day after school.  

A girl began to cry one day in Addison’s first-grade class. The girl came from a low-income family and could not afford Christmas presents. She told Addison that Santa would never visit her home because she thought he hates poor people. The story upset McKenna, so he decided to take action.

“I decided to do something about that,” McKenna said.

At 5 a.m. on Christmas morning that year, McKenna and his family visited the girl in Addison’s class. They brought food and presents, which caused a flood of emotions from the girl’s parents. It was a reaction McKenna will never forget, a reaction that made him think about what else he could do to help others.

That’s when McKenna found out that many students at his elementary school only ate when the school provided a free meal. Ian decided to to build his own garden to grow produce and feed the hungry.

“I’m growing gardens to help feed people who can’t afford fresh and healthy meals,” McKenna said.

McKenna, who is now in eighth grade, has constructed four “Ian’s Giving Gardens” over the years. He currently houses gardens at Sunset Valley Elementary, Oakhill Elementary School, the Big Brother Big Sister mentoring center and his own home.

“Ian is an extremely thoughtful kid,”, Ian’s mother Sarah McKenna said. “He named his first garden his ‘Hacienda Garden’ and planted foods that are found in Hispanic dishes because he knew that the majority of the students at the school are Hispanic. For the garden he is planting today, he chose produce that is colorful because he said he wanted to help the preschoolers to learn their colors and for them to be excited.”

The garden at Sunset Valley has made its way into the elementary school’s curriculum. Emily Bush, the principal at Sunset Valley, is impressed with how many people in the community benefit from Ian’s Giving Gardens.

The produce from the gardens is sent to families in need, local farmer’s markets and food shelters across the city.

“We’re blown away with how much produce it’s yielding,” Bush said. “He’s been able to provide a whole dinner for the homeless.”

Students at Sunset Valley use the plants in the garden for research in science classes. Being able to go outside to the garden and look at the plants provides a great hands-on experience for the kids.

“It has had a major impact on the students,” Bush said.

The school has even created its own garden committee, including parents, faculty and other community members.

McKenna’s favorite plants to grow are scorpion peppers, Carolina reaper peppers, fruits and potatoes.

“Picking potatoes are like a scavenger hunt,” McKenna said. “Time to search.”

McKenna dreams of studying meteorology and astronautical engineering to help with his gardens in the future. He hopes to one day plant gardens across the U.S. and eventually around the world. His dream spot to grow a garden is Africa.


Photos by Michaella Marshall

By the numbers

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Infographics by Bella Tommey

Community members respond to possible relocation of HOPE Outdoor Gallery

Story by Amanda Pinney & Edited by Bryan Rolli

Photos By Tess Cagle

Video Filmed and Edited by Kailey Thompson

 

Splashes of neon paint explode off the concrete walls nestled into the grassy hill on 11th and Baylor Street, home to Austin’s iconic graffiti park, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Each layer of spray paint reveals a colorful mess of chunky bubble letters, intricate murals and hastily scribbled phrases. The artwork changes constantly, as the space welcomes myriads of locals and tourists who need only a spray can and a bit of inspiration to leave their mark on the city.


The HOPE Outdoor Gallery was developed in 2010 as a short-term art installation linked to the HOPE Campaign and created with the intention to channel and promote positive messages in the community. Property developers planned to turn the gallery’s concrete walls — remnants of an abandoned construction project from the 1980s — into condos once the installation ran its course.

View the rest of the story here.

Austin’s Inclusive Space for Women’s Organizations

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Video by Elise Cardenas
Photos by Elise Cardenas and Yelitza Mandujano
Graphics by Yelitza Mandujano and Julie Gomez
Audio by Julie Gomez


In an Austin Community College classroom on a Saturday morning, a group of women gathered to learn about running for public office. The youngest was in elementary school, while the oldest had grandchildren. They varied in race, ethnicity and even nationality, but they had all shown up to “Preparing to Run,” a class put on by Annie’s List, a Texas-based organization that supports progressive women’s political campaigns.

“While women are less likely to run, women are as likely to win,” said Kimberly Caldwell, Annie’s List program director who led the session.

“Preparing to Run” was just one of the 18 sessions that made up the Women’s Empowerment Conference, or WE Con. On Saturday, April 22, the fourth annual WE Con took place at the Eastview campus of Austin Community College. The conference held workshops and discussions on issues such as intersectionality, self-care and civic engagement, with sessions like the “Reproductive Rights Panel,” “A Lion’s Voice: Creative Writing Workshop” and “Bilingual Yoga.” The conference also aimed at being inclusive and welcoming with Spanish-language programming and a childcare room.

Learn more about WE Con’s inclusive & bilingual programming

 

WE Con is put on by the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas, an organization that seeks to create a space for different feminist organizations to come together and connect.

“I love being able to go to a feminist conference that is built from the community and made up of people who are all interested in broadening their perspectives and talking with each other,” said Nora Greenstein Biondi, an attendee at the conference and Women’s and Gender Studies student at the University of Texas.

According to staff member Danea Johnson, the Center chooses organizations for the conference that engage and empower women. Johnson says she looks at organizations that help women get involved in activism, express themselves creatively or take care of their mental well-being.

“We were looking at different ways to get involved in the community,” Johnson said. “[We were] looking at different organizations that have been doing things for the past few years, different ways for women to plug into the community and get involved, whether it’s arts or activism or social justice.”

Civics 101: WE Con speaker, Amy Stansbury of the Austin EcoNetwork explains how to get involved in local government.

 

For Johnson, one particular group that encapsulates this idea of “plugging into the community” is Annie’s List, which participated in WE Con for the first time this year. This group encourages women to get involved with the political process, which the Center’s team sees as necessary for women’s needs to be met politically.

Annie’s List communication director Awo Eni said they saw the conference as a perfect fit for one of their “Preparing to run” classes. Eni says that women tend to need to be asked to run for office, so the program and its workshops aim to encourage that idea for women.

“In Texas, women make up the majority of the state’s population, but they only hold 20 percent of elected office in the state of Texas at both the state and local level,” Eni said. “When progressive women are put in office, they make life better for everyone. Representative democracy is very important to us, and that’s what we’re working towards.”

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Though Annie’s List doesn’t have plans to work with the Center in the future, Eni said they probably would if they had the opportunity.

Annie’s List spokesperson Marjorie Clifton says that more women are needed in public offices so that women’s needs are taken more seriously. For example, prostate cancer research used to receive significantly more funding than ovarian cancer research, but because there are more women in public office now, those numbers are more egalitarian.

“It’s natural that we consider things in our life experiences that are unique to us,” Clifton said. “One of the most important things about having parity in any kind of structure — whether it’s businesses or the legislature — what our legislature is designed to do is not only represent all the genders, but all the races and socioeconomic backgrounds and making sure that it’s truly reflective of the people we’re taking care of.”

Along with WE Con, the Center has a film series called Alt Girl Cinema and workshops throughout the year. Currently, the Women’s Community Center has office space at the PeopleFund, but its board would like to get the Center its own building. To do that, the team is gathering input from the community to hear what individuals would like from that space.

“There’s an interest in women’s issues, a tide that may have started with the Women’s March and a yearning to keep that momentum going,” interim executive director Susannah Erler said. “We want to help keep that momentum going.”

WeCon Demographics

The Pay gap

 

 

Where Western Psychology and Curanderismo Meet

Story by: Itzel Garcia

AUSTIN—Along the Arizona-Mexico border, Alicia Enciso Litschi grew up listening to the word “curanderismo,” a traditional healing practice of Mexican indigenous roots, as part of her Mexican-American culture and upbringing.

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Photo Courtesy of Enciso Litschi

Much later, after earning a PhD in counseling psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, Litschi began implementing traditional curanderismo practices to her profession until she reached a balance between western psychology and curanderismo where both methods of healing worked with each other.

“Curanderismo includes a holistic perspective, it includes the body, the mind, the soul and spirit. If a person is sick, then it is because there’s something wrong with any of these. There’s an imbalance,” Litschi said. “This is something very new to western psychology but beginning to be implemented.”

Both, a curandera and a psychologist, Litschi practices psychotheraphy, or what she calls, “Con alma” or “With soul” therapy. Litschi mainly treats patients with depression, anxiety, social anxiety and imposter syndrome. She also focuses on personal, spiritual and career growth.

The history of curanderismo dates back to indigenous practices before the colonization of Latin America and has developed mainly around Mexican and Mexican-American culture, but Litschi’s approach is inclusive to all ethnicities.

“[If]clients have an open mind to spiritual connections, and if I think it’s something they would appreciate, I tend to use curanderismo to bring a connection with the spirit and earth,” Litschi said.

One of the main curanderismo rituals Litschi implements are “limpias” or spiritual cleansings, in which a person is caressed and rubbed with specific plants. Sometimes, an egg is used to transfer the energy from the body of the patient to the egg. Often, limpias are used to diagnose patients.

“I’ve done limpias with my clients, but also have taught them how to do it themselves because I think that’s also important,” Litschi said.

However, though curanderismo is practiced in professional spaces like in Litschi’s case, it isn’t generally legitimized by western methods of healing.

Curanderismo for the most part is not a certified approach to counseling, Dr. Rachel Gonzalez-Martin said, associate professor in the Mexican American and Latino Studies (MALS) program at UT-Austin.

“Curanderos tend to learn as apprentices –but they aren’t certified like midwives who work in hospitals,” Gonzalez-Martin said. “I think there are informal social networks of training and apprenticing that are more valued than others, also many may also be registered nurses or (have) PhD’s in related health fields.”

Since curanderismo is not certified, specific empirical evidence is difficult to come across of. But there are surveys that record how many U.S. citizens take a holistic approach to mental health.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2002, 75 percent of adults in the US have used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In 2009, 10 percent of children with special health care needs used alternative medicine.

In fact, the recognition of curanderismo by Western psychology is one of Litschi’s main passions that continues to shape her work and her future.

“Curanderismo is it’s own expression of science and needs to be taken seriously,” Litschi said.

Meanwhile, curanderismo remains relevant to cultural practices, specifically with Mexican and Mexican American youth and families.

“There’s been an emphasis in trying to reclaim that which was not lost but which was in hiding.” Litschi said. “It happens a lot within academic spaces, especially when speaking to Mexican American students.”

Celia Valles, a Biochemistry senior at UT Austin, who completed a student thesis about curanderismo, remembers the hands of her aunt rubbing her face, arms and stomach with an egg to release a headache, or an emotional ailing, or what is known as “mal de ojo.”

“I went to a school where most students came from Mexican descent, where the idea of mal de ojo and rubbing yourself with an egg was really common,” Valles said.“Like sometimes, whenever my mom thinks I’m giving too much attitude, she says to me: you need to go get a limpia. Right now.”

 

Birdwatching in the 21st Century

 

Photos courtesy of Chris DuCharme and Phil Butler. Article and graphic by Courtney Runn

“I looked this morning and didn’t see her at all.”

“She’s come out twice. She was chasing the vultures away.”

Chris DuCharme and Phil Butler stand outside of Hogg Auditorium on The University of Texas’s campus almost everyday. From around noon till 2 p.m., you can find them staring up at the UT tower hoping to catch a glimpse of the Peregrine Falcon that lives on top of it. As soon as the bird appears, they pull out cameras, foot-long lenses trained on the sky.

“I kinda joke that he’s the master and I’m the apprentice,” said Butler. DuCharme has been observing the peregrine for several years while Butler just joined him this February. Butler is a program coordinator for the School of Liberal Arts and joins the veteran birdwatcher during his lunch break.

Most of their time is spent waiting. They alternate between sitting and standing and will occasionally walk around the tower for a different angle. Only through their zoom lenses can they truly get a glimpse of the peregrine’s life atop the tower. A problem technology could easily fix. They have a pretty good idea of the bird’s routines, but a web cam could fill in the gaps when they can’t be present in person.

Butler watches a web cam in Pennsylvania that offers viewers constant footage of falcons from several angles. Through this up-close look into their world, he has been able to watch their life: babies hatching, the mother bringing back food to the nest, both parents flying in and out.

“To see it that close up…it’s mind-boggling,” said DuCharme. “Fifteen years ago, nobody thought about that kind of stuff.”

birds-in-texas_22107984_ece29e6eb149112e16d4ae387a208fc512e09c37The Internet, digital cameras, and smart phones have ushered in a new era of birdwatching, making the hobby more accessible. Through web cams and digital cameras, birds can be seen up-close at any time. Websites like eBird allow users to track their own bird sightings, explore bird maps, and alert others to their finds. The tagline for the site is “Birding in the 21st Century.”

Pre-Internet days, DeCharme remembers getting alerts via telephone about bird sightings, but they would be delayed. Technology offers immediacy. If an eBird user records a rare bird sighting, members in the area could know about the bird in real time.

Smart phones also allow for more accessible birdwatching with apps to help users recognize species, record bird calls, and quickly record video or take a picture for later study.

Sheila Hargis works in the police department as a civilian but has been an avid bird watcher for 20 plus years. She volunteers with Travis Audubon, a local chapter of Audubon, a national bird conservation and observation society. Instead of carrying field guides with her on Audubon field trips or personal outings, Hargis uses apps on her phone to identify birds.

“Some of these electronic field guides…link up to the eBird data and if there’s a bird you need to add to your life list then it will tell you, hey this bird is missing from your life list and there was one that just showed up in Bastrop last week and here is where it was seen,” said Hargis.

In 2014, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology released an app called Merlin, which helps new birdwatchers identify species. The app will ask a series of questions, from bird size to location of the sighting, then offer several possible matches of species that would normally be found in the area.

While technology makes birdwatching more accessible, it has drawbacks as well.

“We’re busy entering data on our phone,” said Hargis. “We’re maybe not as connected to watching what’s happening.”

UT student Agustín Rodrigeuz began birdwatching this semester for his class Biology of Birds. He fears technology would discourage people from going out into nature since “you [could] see more ‘exciting’ birds just browsing the Internet.”

DuCharme hopes that a web cam will be installed on the UT tower soon so he can get a more intimate look at his long-time companion. But he’s also not ready for birdwatching to become completely integrated with technology.

He has a few birds he’s got his eye on right now and he’s not sure if he’s ready to share them with the world yet.

UT Plant Center’s Deep Roots

Text By Noelle Darilek

Audio By Armando Maese

Photos By Meredith Knight

One the first floor of the University of Texas Tower tucked around a corner, there is a nearly invisible door which opens up to a small room with low ceilings, file cabinets, stacks of folders and files, and a small kitchen and office areas stuck off to the sides.

This is the UT Plant Resources Center, hardly the herbarium you’d imagine it to be. The space could almost double as a basement.

Bob Jansen, UT Plant Resources director, meets with George Yatskievych, botanist and curator at the resources center, every Wednesday to discuss topics like funding and future plans for the center.

Jansen has been a member of the university faculty since 1991. Fairly soft-spoken, he sits at the round kitchen table in a striped t-shirt next to Yatskievych and describes the resource center as a “hidden treasure.”

The university was founded in 1881 and the herbarium was created shortly after in the early 1890’s when Dr. Frederick W. Simonds came to work at UT. Simonds was interested in plant research and collected various plant specimens in the process, thus the herbarium was created.

However, it wasn’t called the Plant Resources Center until the mid-1980’s when the university took on a second major herbarium that was donated by famous botanist and archaeologist, Cyrus Lundell. Today it houses over a million different specimens, from wildflowers to seaweed, and is the largest herbarium in the Southwestern United States.

“All of our resources are dead,” said Yatskievych. “We are a giant morgue with plant cadavers.”

With specimens that date back to the 1760’s and the most recent being from last month, the resources center has seen a lot of changes in the type plant growth in the world over time. The center collects specimens and documents the plant, which was growing at a specific location and time.

“We take in about 7,000 new specimens each year,” said Yatskievych. “We accept well prepared plant specimen donations from anyone who has a need to have such specimens housed in a publically accessible museum where they can be catalogued, made available for study, and preserved for perpetuity.”

This includes donations from students and faculty, botanists, environmental consultants and even members of the public. The center relies on the person who collected the specimen to supply them with the information on where, when, and by whom it was collected.

The plant specimens are stored in folders in horizontal piles on shelves in specially constructed museum cabinets. These cabinets are tightly sealed to prevent insects, fire and flooding from ruining them. The specimens are then used mainly for scientific purposes, such as genetic testing.

Amalia Diaz, assistant curator, said the valuable plants are more than just plants – the plants have a lot of important data associated with it.

For example, the center has a plant called Eupatorium organense, a member of the sunflower family, from Captain Cook’s first voyage in the South Pacific. It is from 1768 and was found in the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil area. Several other plants from Captain Cook’s first voyage collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander can also be found here.

Being the only plant collection located on the UT campus, students studying a related field also utilize the resources center.

“We’re still finding uses for our collection,” said Yatskievych. “Last semester we had an artist who visited and imaged some of our specimens as inspiration and as raw materials for some of his art projects. So it’s not all science.”

With a staff of three, plus help from 10 undergrads who work part-time as herbarium assistants, the center wants to show that it is an important contribution to the university.

UT has been one of the lucky ones, as natural history collections, such as the one at Northeastern Louisiana University in Monroe, is facing impending closure.

“Natural history collections at public universities are especially vulnerable to loss of support and closure,” said Yatskievych. “Other institutions are scrambling to figure out how to arrange a transfer of the huge volume of materials…fortunately, the collections at UT appear to be stable for the immediate future.”

Jansen notes that universities tend to close resources centers down due primarily to limited funding and changing priorities.

“Collections are an easy thing to cut because at some places it probably doesn’t serve that many people at the university,” said Jansen. “At the Louisiana institution, they’re taking the space to build an athletic facility, so athletics is obviously more important to them than having collections.”

The 13th largest herbarium in the United States, the UT Plant Resources Center has a couple hundred visits annually for those coming to work with the plants, not counting visits from students for class related activities.

In an 80-year-old building, the small room in the UT Tower isn’t quite constructed to double as a plant resources center. Yatskievych said being located in the tower is kind of a trade off. While being centrally located for students, it can be hard to park at and get to for others that are not on campus.

The small staff knows their center can be hard to find, but are currently working on new strategies to get noticed.

The UT Plant Resources Center is currently awaiting the opening of a new biodiversity center to use as an opportunity for outreach. The center will bring together the various biodiversity collections at UT to have all in one place.

“In the past there were scattered collections, but the idea is to have a biodiversity center to have them under an umbrella,” said Diaz. “It’s going to have its own building and it’s going to be more visible to people.”

Jansen said the center would be more convenient and better for interaction, as UT’s collection would be housed with the other related ones.

“We’re on multiple floors of the tower and we’re grateful to have that space, but it isn’t very convenient,” said Jansen. “The curators and staff and directors of those other collections, it would be to their advantage for interactions to be in the same place.”

The center will not be open until the start of the upcoming fall semester and is part of the Integrative Biology Department, directed by Dr. David Hillis.

“Having the center creates opportunities for better communications and potential shared projects among the collections and station staff, even though we are rather spread out in terms of locations,” said Yatskievych. “Having a center also hopefully will lead to a new building in the future where the natural history collections can be housed in a more state of the art museum facility.”

Even when the biodiversity center is created, the goal of the resources center will remain the same – to be as useful as possible to other people, whether it’s helping them with projects or identifying plants.

Although for now most people don’t know the resources center exists, Yatskievych said he and his staff are trying to help as much as they can. They want to continue serving the Texas population more and more.

“We want as many different people excited about plants and nature as we can get in through our door,” Yatskievych said.

 

Audio Script

Since the 1890’s, the Plant Resources Center has been one of the UT Tower’s hidden treasures. It houses over one million dead plant specimens that have mainly been donated by people outside of the university.

 

“We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t able to show that we are important for research education and outreach. The university doesn’t just allow things to exist just because they are. Nothing is safe in that sense, everything has to show that it’s part of the community and contributing to the university’s mission.”-George Yatskievych

 

George Yatskievych  is the head curator at the center and runs it alongside two other officials and a handful of undergraduate assistants. He believes that the plant resources center is a valuable resource for all kinds of projects, such as standard biology projects history dating projects and art collages.  The Center does not receive any money from UT, it solely relies on donations from others and grants from research projects. The Center is not in danger financially, but it is running into some other concerns.

 

“We’re open to the public so we don’t exclude anyone. We want as many people as possible excited about plants and nature as we can get through our door. It’s a little difficult because first off a lot of people don’t know we exist, we’re still working on marketing ourselves, branding ourselves, but also being at the university, parking is an issue. The university is big so sometimes it’s just a matter of being at the right part of campus and we try to help people with whatever type of questions they have, whether it’s a beginner or whether it’s someone who is very technically advanced.”- George Yatskievych

 

Bob Jansen, director of the plant resources center, says that another issue is the fact that many UT collections are scattered all over the place.

 

“A lot of the collections are over at the Pickle Research Center, which is 14 miles from here. That’s not very convenient for the people that are out there. It would be more convenient if everyone was out there or if it was somewhere else together. So that I think is something that we would like to see in the future and there’s certainly been a lot of discussion about it now. So I think there’s a reasonable chance it could happen.”- Bob Jansen

 

There have been talks of a biodiversity center, which would include the Plant Resources Center. Assistant curator Amalia Diaz believes this is a step in the right direction.

 

“When we talk about the new Biodiversity Center, this new initiative at UT, it’s giving us that opportunity to reach out to people in a different way, not only the enclosed collections but also different activities and they can see what we do and they can get involved so when it’s time to defend something you know what it is and you can go for it.”- Amalia Diaz

 

As the Plant Resources Center continues to grow, its variety of uses will also expand, as they are currently trying to reach out to property owners and others that did not know about the center before. Through this, it will be even more beneficial for not just UT, but rather the entire state of Texas and beyond. Armando Maese, multimedia newsroom.

 

 

UT Law: Rising in the Ranks

Writing by Katie Keenan

Video by James Grachos

Photos and Captions by Jane Morgan Scott

It’s been a long-held status symbol in the law school community to rank as one of the top 14 legal education institutions in the nation – a feat the University of Texas Law School has managed to accomplish, beating out Georgetown Law in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s ranking for 2018.

 

“The UT Law school has always been, at least in the time I’ve been here, thought to be in the top group of national law schools. I think that’s true whether it’s 16th or 14th,” said former UT president Bill Powers, who now works as a professor at the law school. He views the U.S. News rankings as important to certain key demographics – such as potential students or employers. In the long-run, however, Powers feels the significance of rankings has ultimately been overblown.

 

“I think frankly; we’d be better off without them,” said Powers. “If rankings are taken with not just a grain of salt, but a lot of salt, they can be helpful. One of the problems is that they’re very often based on statistical numbers.”

 

The arbitrary nature of U.S. News’ methodology, which includes assessments from law school deans, judges and other legal officials, in addition to median LSAT scores, GPAs, selectivity, and expenditures per student, can sometimes be overly mechanical, according to Powers.

 

An additional distinctive characteristic of the law school is its low cost relative to similarly ranked institutions, coming in at $33,995 per year as opposed to number 13, Cornell University, which charges $61,485 a year. Powers said this is a significant factor in the U.S. News ranking methodology, making UT rank lower than its counterparts. Instead of viewing this financial discreetness as a drawback, he sees it as a testament to the University’s ability to outperform schools that possess vast amounts of resources.

 

“University of Texas tends to do poorly on the per-student expenditure, or per student financial support,” Powers said. “You know, the law school tuition isn’t free, but it’s a lot below the other top 20 schools, at least for in-state students, and that’s something we’re proud of.”

 

Nonetheless, this wasn’t the first time UT Law had crept into the exclusive cadre of Ivy League law schools, tying for 14th in 2012 with Georgetown. For some students, including English major Anne Jensen, the symbolism of the T-14 ranking has taken a positive turn, with UT Law being the first public school to outrank a top Ivy.

 

“I think rankings are very important because…people want to hire from certain schools,” said Jensen, who plans on attending UT Law this Fall. “I think that was a nice assurance to know that I don’t have to be in the top 10 percent of my class because I went to a better school; I would still be hired.”

 

Out of 362 students graduating in 2016, 80 percent obtained employment that required passing the bar exam, supporting the sense of confidence Jensen places in UT’s ability to increase her chances of finding a job. 68 percent of law school graduates remained in Texas, with the rest pursuing careers in New York and California. Jensen believes this strong Texas connection may inhibit UT Law from achieving the same level of notoriety as its Ivy League counterparts, although reaching this status may not be the law school’s goal after all.

 

“Some people think it’s a national school and its taught more theoretically like a national school, but if I wanted to practice out of state, UT would not be my best option because ultimately, it’s pretty regional,” Jensen said. “Part of that is just being a public school and the amount of people from Texas who want to stay in Texas, so they just don’t place people out of Texas the way other schools of their ranking do.”

As per the U.S. News and World Report rankings of law schools for 2018, Texas Law has beat out Georgetown for no. 14.

As per the U.S. News and World Report rankings of law schools for 2018, Texas Law has beat out Georgetown for no. 14.

Powers first came to the University of Texas as a law professor, then dean of the law school. After that, he took his turn as the longest serving UT president, and now has returned to teaching both in the law school and in the undergraduate school.

Powers first came to the University of Texas as a law professor, then dean of the law school. After that, he took his turn as the longest serving UT president, and now has returned to teaching both in the law school and in the undergraduate school.

Anne Jensen, a senior at UT, chose Texas Law over Duke and NYU because of its affordability and job opportunities within the state.

Anne Jensen, a senior at UT, chose Texas Law over Duke and NYU because of its affordability and job opportunities within the state.

Former UT President and current law professor Bill Powers believes that while rankings are important, they should not be the main focus of the admissions staff.

Former UT President and current law professor Bill Powers believes that while rankings are important, they should not be the main focus of the admissions staff.

 

 

 

 

 

Yoruba Day: A Celebration of Culture and Language

Video by Ceci Gonzales, Karla Benitez and Ashika Sethi

Words by Grant Gordon

Photos by Ashika Sethi

 

 

The University of Texas at Austin’s 12th Yoruba Day celebration was held on April 21st, spreading awareness about a culture that is unknown to many but has become very important to a group of UT students.

Professor Omoniyi Afolabi’s Intermediate Yoruba class teaches students from various backgrounds the Yoruba culture and language, which is spoken by over 30 million people in the world, predominantly in Western Africa and Nigeria. At the Yoruba Day celebration, Afolabi’s class performed a 20-minute play speaking solely the Yoruba language in a performance that served as the class’s final exam.

“The best way to teach a language is to have opportunities to apply it,” Afolabi said. The class’s memorized performance in front of an audience of about 50 people supplied this opportunity.

“There is a lot that is lost when all you’re doing is grammar and homework and exercises,” Afolabi said. “But when students are in a situation where they actually have to apply the language, they feel freer. They feel… that the language is alive.”

The approximately 15 students in Afolabi’s class have a variety of different reasons for choosing to learn Yoruba. Christianah Ogunleye, a senior biochemistry major, was born in Nigeria, and while she has been exposed to the language from her family for her whole life, she lost the ability to speak it when she moved to America at two years old.

“I figured now that I’m in college this was the time,” Ogunleye said. “It was kind of a decision to come back to my roots and learn about myself as a person and be able to communicate with my family members that I hadn’t seen in years.”

Ogunleye said that the Yoruba Day celebration is a fun and exciting way to introduce the culture to people who have never experienced it before.

“My favorite part of the culture is the dancing and the singing,” she said. “I think that the artistic culture of dancing and singing is very deeply embedded in the culture, and I love it so much.”

Ogunleye has noticed a significant emergence of Yoruba culture in American pop culture in the past two years. Artists like Beyoncé and Drake have used aspects of the culture in their recent work.

“Globally, hip hop is becoming very influenced by African beats, and Nigeria as a whole is… for African music, it’s a big hub for it,” Ogunleye said.

Rebecca Williams, a freshman Radio Television and Film major taking the Intermediate Yoruba class, has also noticed Yoruba’s recent prevalence in pop culture. Because of her experience learning about the culture, she was able to explain to her friends that Beyoncé was depicting the Yoruba deity Oshun in her recent Grammy Awards performance.

Williams said that performances such as Beyoncé’s could lead to more young people digging deeper and learning about the Yoruba culture, spreading the culture to a wide audience across the world.

While Ogunleye took the Intermediate Yoruba course to get back to her roots, Williams made the decision to take the class with an eye toward the future. She said that she plans to learn other African languages in her time at UT to aid her potential career as a documentary film maker with an African focus.

“For my career, I plan to travel abroad,” Williams said. “I know the language already, so I can use that. It won’t be a language barrier.”

Whatever reason the students have for learning Yoruba, their actions have already helped increase awareness to the culture and draw more people to the UT Yoruba community.

Since he arrived in 2009, professor Afolabi said that he has seen the Yoruba Day celebration change a great deal. He said that it is now much more of a communal experience, with several elders from the Yoruba culture attending last month’s celebration.

“It’s a generational thing,” Afolabi said.

As his students use what they have learned about the culture to enhance their careers or develop their own spirituality, perhaps they will prove their professor right by returning to Yoruba Day celebrations decades down the road.

Bee Friendly

by Mackenzie Palmer, Kathryn Miles, Peyton Yager and Taylor Gantt

It’s a passion for their protection and a bravery of one’s will that has left the Reburn’s able to work near an ever-growing sworn of bees.

Tanya and Chuck Reburn began Bee Friendly Austin five years ago to do their part in saving the world. They agreed their mission began as a combination of a hobby and an eco friendly initiative they took upon themselves to improve agriculture in the Austin area and around the United States.


They started after Tanya had decided to do some research on the pros of bee keeping. After going to an informational meet and great with other beekeepers, the Reburn’s decided to get started on their own.

They began ordering bees simply from the Internet. Starting out with five colonies, it quickly turned into 20 by the end of the first year.

“The next year 40, and then 80,” Chuck said. “Now we manage over a 100, 200 colonies typically in a year.”

The spring is their busiest time of year. On a typical day they are either making equipment or working in the bee yard 12 hours a day.

Chuck stated how Austin is a good place for bee farming. Austin doesn’t have major crops that can cause problems such as pesticides making it a perfect condition for bees.

“Other areas of the country have more problems than Austin does,” Reburn said

Bee Friendly Austin extends classroom teachings to educate the public and offer beginning and more advance beekeeping lessons. They also breed and take care of their own bees, which in returns provides them with honey that they sell.

Each box has a queen and about 10,000 worker bees. Bees reproduce in the spring where the current colony basically promotes a new bee to become queen, starting a new colony. The Reburns are able to have some control over this process, which allows them to keep producing new colonies and breed more queen bees to keep hives productive.

With our nation in a bee epidemic, the Reburn’s are aiding in agricultural production and are encouraging others to do so as well. Chuck described the issue as having two calves every year and having one of them die.

He said it’s not exactly as much of an epidemic as everyone thinks it is.

“We’ll make about, say a 50% increase and then lose 40% so we come out ahead every year but the problem is from someone producing something it’s expensive” Reburn said.

He also explained that one of the biggest areas that are struggling with the dwindling numbers of bees is the almond production, specifically in California. He said that a couple million beehives need to go into almonds and there are just only so many available. They’re planting more and more almonds every year so the demand for bees going to almonds to do pollination is increasing faster than the number of bee’s available to do it.

Chuck deals with the hives daily upkeep and honey production. He states that one can learn much about the world by working with bees.

“What we can learn from the bees is that it’s by helping each other and sharing everything they have equally that they actually lift themselves up and further their creation, further themselves into the future,” Chuck said.

Working in this business comes with a risk, and Chuck said he has taken many stings’ to the body, but now it hardly fazes him.

“Getting stung a couple times a day is fairly normal,” Chuck said. “When it’s hot out I work with less protective gear on and if I get stung it’s not a big deal.”

The couple now sells their honey in the Austin downtown Whole Foods as well as several gift shops in the area but they maintain their stance on the bee endeavor as mainly enjoyment purposes. They are proud to no longer use any sugar at their house and rely solely on honey for their cooking and lip waxes.

Apiary tours and Texas raw honey are available at their house in southwest Austin, which they leave open to visitors, tours and customers daily during business hours.

http://beefriendlyaustintx.weebly.com/

 

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